As jewellers’ strike entered the fourth week, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday offered to walk the extra mile to ensure that small traders were not harassed, but made it clear that luxury items cannot go untaxed.
Jewellers have been on strike since March 3 in protest against the government’s decision to levy 1% excise duty on gold purchases introduced in the Budget.
Gold and other jewellery will be part of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which will subsume the 1% proposed levy when implemented, Jaitley said, adding, there cannot be a situation where luxury items like gold are left out.
“A luxury item must pay its share of taxes. So on procedural harassment, if they have any suggestions, I am willing to accept for simplification so that there is no harassment... I am willing to take an extra step. But indefinitely India can not have a situation where luxury items go untaxed,” the finance minister said.
The government has set up a committee under former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri to look into the problems of jewellers and suggest ways to eliminate harassment. The finance ministry has also clarified that the 1% levy would be only for jewellers with turnover of `12 crore and above.
Since artisans are not covered by this duty, they do not need to register, pay duty, file returns and maintain any books of account.
“We have issued very strict guidelines. Only the primary manufacturers will be liable for excise, no job worker, no small trader etc. We have kept the threshold very high,” Jaitley said.
“If there are any other procedural simplification suggested by the Ashok Lahiri committee, I will be too wiling to consider them.... But the society has to accept that when items and commodities, which are used by average person are all being subjected to tax, a luxury item like gold cannot go untaxed,” he added.
The committee on GST headed by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian had said that “if you keep gold out, tax on other products have to go up... Other products cannot subsidise gold”.
According to the finance ministry notification, the application for excise registration as well as returns can be filed online and field officers will provide hassle-free registration within two working days. There will be no physical verification of jewellers’ premises post-registration, and they would also not be required to declare their pre-budget stocks.